Whether your aging parents are safe living alone or not depends on several factors: their overall mental and physical health, how socially active they are, and how far they are from family or other help. This is a highly personal question that everyone needs to ask and answer for themselves.
We got advice from our expert advisor, Sally Russell. As an MN, CMSRN, and CNE, she shed light on how to help aging parents live independently longer.
There are some signs that it may be time for your parents to move—whether that’s moving in with you or into a retirement community, assisted living facility, or nursing home.
If your parents have health conditions that require a lot of specialized care, they may be better off in a nursing home with constant nursing help available.
Isolation and loneliness are major problems that can decrease the quality of life for seniors living alone. If they are otherwise in good health, there are communities designed specifically for senior independent living (sometimes called retirement communities) that might be perfect for them.
As humans age, their ability to perform simple daily habits can decrease. They may struggle to get in and out of the shower or make meals. If that describes your parents, they are much more likely to thrive in an environment where they can receive that help regularly.
"If it’s not safe to leave them alone, and you worry about falls or cooking injuries, it may be safer for them in a facility where other people are there to protect them as well," says Russell.
If your parents are experiencing any of these difficulties, it might be time to consider finding an assisted living facility or retirement community. The right community will reduce isolation and provide the medical help they may need.
On the other hand, if your parents are in good health, socially active, and can take care of themselves, then senior independent living is another option.
Many senior and retirement facilities have a social worker who visits regularly or works full time. They can help you start the process. While it's not an easy decision, you'll get peace of mind knowing you made the safest decision even if it is not the easiest one.
You can check with the National Council on Aging to find resources in your area.
If your parents are still living alone, try these things to keep things running smoothly for them:
- Set up pharmacist or nurse consultations to help keep medications organized and on schedule.
- Set up a home security system to help ensure they stay safe on their own.
- Get them a pet to keep them company.
- Check on them regularly. It's not just nice to catch up with your mom or dad, regular calls or visits prevent isolation and give you a better picture of how they're doing on their own.
- Get smart home devices to make their daily routine easier. Smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart locks can give them more control over their home without the need to get up.
Even if your parent is elderly, living alone may still be important to them—it’s a sign of self-sufficiency that’s hard to let go. In that case, have a discussion about medical alert devices. They could be the key to your parents maintaining independence while staying safe.